Current date: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 11:10 p.m. (Buenos Aires)

Current Itinerary: Here until the end of July for sure.

Note #1: Along with an update, this journal answers the two most popular questions from the last few months...what happened with going back to grad school and what's on the agenda next. Just a warning: RANT ALERT!!

Note #2: I think I can speak for each and every one of us and say, ENOUGH with the cutting people's heads off.

Written June 8, 2004

Lots happening the last two weeks since I wrote. I have finally gotten past my "rest" phase and have begun to go out much more and get to know the city and more people. It's been a lot of fun. I still haven't been working quite enough but I have managed to live my life on close to the bare necessities...but splurging a little here and there.

Last week was particularly good because I got many phone calls from back home...and even one from my man Leandro (from SP) all the way in Geneva Switzerland. It means so much to me to be able to talk to my great friends and is a good reminder that the folks back home (and those in Brazil) haven't forgotten about me.

A GREAT highlight from last week was that my friend Cris from SP came to visit (the one who I met on my 2002 trip that helped me plan a lot of my 2003 trip). It was great to see her and her friends again. We went out to a club here called "69". I don't think they liked it too much but it was still a decent night. One thing about the clubs in Buenos Aires...if you don't like Electronic music you are in trouble. It is the music of choice and almost every "major" club plays electronic music exclusively. I like it, but after many, many nights in a row it begins to wear on me. They really need to infuse some variety in this city. I imagine there are other places I haven't yet discovered...so let's give it time. I have been to one hip-hop place and a couple salsa places...but those are more "theme" type nights...BA is lacking in "general dance music" type clubs. It makes the nightlife somewhat one-dimensional...althought I would agree it is still pretty good, it could never compare to the ecclectic mix of the SP nightlife.

Anyway, my main partner in crime here has been Chris/Denver who I met through my friend Anthony from Houston. He has become my best friend here in BA and we have been having some great times together. He'll leave at the end of this month though...I'm considering hitting the road too if things don't get better work wise. Maybe we could travel together for awhile, which would be great. Who knows. Anyway, he and I have been out quite a bit the last weeks and having a blast. He's a great guy who is extremely open minded and seems to be enjoying life as much as anybody. He seems to have a pretty good grasp on life and what his dreams and goals are...but at the same time is going through that "I'm about to graduate from College so I need to decide what's next" phase of life. I'm sure all will turn out well for him...one thing is certain though...I'll be pretty sad when he leaves.

We went to a great house party last weekend. It was at the apartment of these three American girls that are living here for the summer. It was fun talking to them and particularly cool to be able to hear some of the current good music from back home. I have missed out a TON on the music scene...especially since I came to BA because hip-hop is not exactly the music of choice here. You do hear lots of music in English, as with Brazil, but it tends to be either older stuff, or things of the pop and rock variety (both of which I like, but I like to hear everything).

Anyway, I hope to hang out with them more often as they seemed like a really fun group and had one hell of a little party.

Written Thursday, June 10, 2004

Got interrupted abrubtly when writing the other day...no sweat though, these things happen. There is something different on my mind now though...It is definitely true that some days when you're living in another place can be a little frustrating. As I've said many times, completing everyday tasks can be rather frustrating in latin America and it makes you realize how efficient things run in the good ol' USA.

So here was the deal...I needed to leave Argentina and re-enter because my 90 day Visa was up. It really is a simple formality (or it should be), you can catch a boat across the bay to Uraguay or you have the option of taking the bus there. You then return the following day and that's it. Simple right? Well, a series of road blocks (some my own fault) made this a rather difficult process. Let me explain...

I needed to find out about prices for the Buquebus (boat) first because I wanted to compare them to bus prices. The boat is faster and I figured more expensive...but I wanted to know HOW MUCH more and if it was worth it. Simply put, time is not much of a factor for me these days (wohoo!), but money is (doh!).

I tried the Buquebus website first (I had used it to get info and buy tickets when I came here in 2002), but the site was down. That meant I had to go to the actually station, which was not THAT big of a deal because if you want to find out about bus tickets your only option is to go to the bus station anyway, I figured I could do both...even though it is probably a 2 and a half hour process to do that. Okay, I accept it...as I said, things take time in latin america...it is not all internet and phonecalls.

I discovered that a bus ride was only about 20 pesos (7 dollars) cheaper but a considerably longer ride, so the buquebus it would be. Now, my last day I could be in Argentina was June 11. I had gone to find out about these tickets during the week of June 1. I couldn't go that weekend because I had some friends in town from SP, so that left me this week to do the trip.

The problem was that I wasn't sure about one thing...if I could leave the country and re-enter the same day, or if I had to wait and return the next day. This is important because on Tuesday and Thursday mornings I have classes, leaving Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (last possible day) for me to get Uraguay. Considering that, it would be a LOT easier for me to go and come back the same day. I decided I would call the immigration office on Monday and find out if I could leave/re-enter the same day, and then book a ticket for Wed. or Friday. Well, if you think calling a government office in the US and trying to reach a human is tough, then you can imagine my success rate with that same process here in Argentina. I spent 45 minutes calling different numbers and listening to recordings before giving up on that route. I decided to just e-mail the office and wait for a reply and book my ticket on Tuesday...besides, I still have plenty of time...all the way until Friday.

So on Tuesday I get an answer back by e-mail that says go directly to immigration to find out! How much work would it have been for that guy to either A. Walk across the office where he works and ask or B. Call the right person to find out since he has access to all the internal numbers. For me to go to that office is two hours round trip! Augh! So I figured forget it, I'll just buy a ticket online for Wednesday and return at 4 a.m. on Thursday which would put me back in BA just in time for my class. When I tried to book my ticket online and it doesn't let me because you can't book online for a next day ticket! Dammit. So my only option was to get up early on Wed., get to the buquebus station, and hope there were tickets available.

On Tues. night I went out with some friends to watch Game 2 of the NBA finals (the game the Lakers pushed to OT with a great Kobe 3 and then eventually they won, tying the series.) After the game, we went to this bar...yada yada yada I got home at 5:30, faced with the debate of trying to sleep for an hour or just packing my stuff and heading straight for the buquebus. I chose sleep. Needless to say...no buquebus for me on Wed. morning.

No problem I thought when I got up...I HAVE to go on Friday now, but it is a couple days off so I can book my ticket online...which I begin to do, but after I put in my credit card info and everything, get to the last damn step and get a freaking error. Not a "404" browser error...but a funky error that makes me think the obvious...wait a second, did my card go through or not? Dammit! I didn't want to try to rebook because I wasn't sure if I would get double charged. I decided my only real course of action would be to go all the way to the buquebus station on Thursday morning and find out if my reservation went through and if not, just buy my ticket there in person. Still a pain because it is about an hour from my house, but I can't take any chances on not getting a ticket for Friday since it is my last day.

So this morning I got up painfully early and went to the station...stopping first at the counter that handles internet reservations to make sure my card wasn't charged. I quickly explain what happened and the lady starts talking to me like I am a complete idiot...insisting that if I got an error than my card couldn't be charged. So I said I just wanted to be sure and ask her to check the computer (which is right next to her). She actually says no...and so I press a little and she asks if I got a confirmation number. Of course, I didn't because I got an error on that last screen so she says she can't check. So I ask if she can just check by name and she says no. Now, that just CANNOT be true, but my persistence seemed to get nowhere. I mean, how long would it have taken her...maybe 20 seconds. But that is latin America folks...no customer service whatsoever. The folks in offices act as if they are there doing you a favor rather than providing a service and it has been a source of frustration for me MANY times. Apparently this woman lives in a world where computers never make mistakes.

Anyway, I figured the best course of action was to side-step this lady and go to somebody else...but first I went to the immigration officer to ask about coming back the same day. They said it was no problem so in the end, the internet Snafu saved me quite a bit. At the ticket sale counter I asked the guy if there was already a reservation in my name...he said no but it didn't really look like he checked (hmmmmm...this better not come back to haunt me) I bought my ticket for exit/return on Friday and FINALLY it was all set. One week to buy a damn boat ticket! Tomorrow I'll head for Uraguay for the day.

Written Friday, June 11, 2004

Well, after the whole ordeal from this week, I am FINALLY aboard the Buquebus headed towards Uraguay for the day. It is not something, as Americans, we can do very often...travel to another country just for the day. It's a little strange for us since our country is so big, but for my European friends out there, it's hardly an experience worth mentioning. I think it's cool.

Anyway hopefully I'll have time do a fair amount of catching up with journals and some reading on this trip. I have almost 6 hours of boat time so it shouldn't be too tough!

I can't help to think back now, to the last time I was on this same journey on the buquebus in 2002...I had a beautiful Colombian girl by my side and I was rather green in my backpacking experiences. Who would have ever figured I'd be here back on the buquebus!? Pretty cool.

I look around at the people on the boat with me and wonder about their stories. Many are probably going to see families for the weekend, others are doing a day trip as myself, and some are continuing their travels. I bring this up because while waiting to board before I noticed a few backpackers and it was a weird feeling. Although I am also backpacking, my situation is slightly different since I'm stopping to "live" here for some time. I somehow feel a bit seperated from that realm...whereas if I also had my backpack strapped on, we most certainly would have struck up a conversation. Now it's like I'm sort of an outsider...or maybe THEY are the outsiders since most of the people on this boat live here as I do. Anyway, we are sort of in different groups now which is a strange feeling.

So I finally have a chance to write about some of my impressions of Buenos Aires so far. Now I've been here for awhile, so I think I can make some statements about what I've seen. There is one thing that is VERY certain...the attitude here is much closer to that of the US than it is to Brazil. I want to try to explain what I mean but it is going to be difficult. When I was living in Sao Paulo, there were several people that I knew for weeks or even months that never once asked me or cared what it was I did in the US. There was no label (besides being American) attached to me in many cases. That is not the case here...people judge you a LOT by what you do and that seems to be what defines you. You meet somebody and that is the first question that comes out of their mouths..."What do you do?" Now I realize that it is a natural tendency for most and it is a reasonable question to ask someone you have just met to learn something about them. I certainly have asked that question myself many times. But the difference here is that it becomes like a job interview. "What did you study?" "Where did you work in the US?" "What do you do here...are you working or on vacation?" These are all questions I get within 2 minutes of meeting people...almost EVERY TIME. The mentality is just different. Like, people ask if I'm on vacation, and I say no and then they ask me if I came here for work and I say no. After that they become confused...and then ask if I'm studying here and I say no. And that's it. In their minds, there are NO other options. It's just a very difficult concept for them to grab, so they just keep pressing and pressing with questions trying to figure it out but never really getting it. I think that at home the attitude is quite similar because nobody really does any long term travelling. I've noticed that even for many people on this list, the level of comfortability with what I'm doing has changed. E-mails to me have sort of changed from "way to go!" to "okay, it's been a long time so now you have to come back." I have been gone for 16 months now. Yes, it's a very long time, I know...but I'm just not done yet. Where is the end? I don't know. For now I am more than content with being out here on the road and plan to keep going for perhaps antoher year.

That reminds me...many have wondered what happened with my returning to gradschool at BCM since I originally planned to take just a year off. Well, as I ended up spending FAR more time in Brazil than I anticipated, I wanted to try to do the rest of South America, or atleast a significant portion of it in the first six months of this year. So I asked the gradschool for 6 more months. They said "no" so that was the end of the line for me and BCM. I wasn't really upset about it at the time because I anticipated that may happen...but the reply I got had a line in it that really set me off. So I set down to write about it. I debated for awhile whether I would ever let the following words find their way into a journal, but this is a part of me and my feelings are important to explore on this journey:

=====================================================

Written January 17, 2004

Well, just as I figured, BCM will not allow me to stay on the road another six months. Oh well, I am not mad about that really, I mean, it really isn't a surprise to me. I know there are very few people out there(and probably only one or two people at BCM that aren't grad students) who really understand why I'm doing this. Anyway, this e-mail I got from them the other day was so ridiculous to me...well, just this one part in particular:

"[We] recognize that you are enjoying Brazil but you you need to get on with graduate school if you are really committed to this career choice."

Really? This is the way to prove that science is what I love and want to do with my life? I think not. What in the world is the rush? I'd say I've got plenty of time and what I'm doing now has NOTHING to do with my "committment to this career choice".

In the minds of the BCM folks, it seems that the of taking a little time out of your life to pursue something outside of your career path is beyond the concept of understanding. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, a year and half is not a "little" time. Hmmmmmm...another common characteristic in people that I can't understand. We are far too short-sighted in our society. Two years is nothing. What, I ask, is the difference between doing something for 35 years and doing it for 33 years? Science isn't going anywhere...it will always be there waiting for me, whether I return to it tomorrow, a month from now, or a year from now.

I know leaving BCM and the USA forced me to give up a lot, but I could not be more sure about the choices I have made and I know I
must live with all the consequences that have come and will come as a
result of this decision. I'd say, at this point, my experiences speak for themselves and I know that years from now I'll have zero regrets about the way I spent my youth and I'll always know I put everything I could into pursuing my dreams and lived my life to the fullest. Man, why doesn't anybody else see it? You only live once and are young ONE TIME...that is it. I never ever heard anybody say, "You know, I had too much fun in life. I wish I would have worked more." Now, I'm not saying that putting a lot of energy, time, and effort into your career isn't the right thing to do. In fact, I think it is quite important, and I HAVE put quite a bit in myself...but for this short while, I'm doing something a little different. Something else that I am putting a lot of energy, time, and effort into...and I think it is equally important to my life and my growth as a person. It is especially important to do this now, while I am only 27, and have the energy and lack of others depending on me (wife, family, etc.). I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Yeah, I always wanted to _____ but then I got married and had kids and never got to it." I choose to learn from that and say, well, it's not too late for me...so I'm out here doing it. It's the right time and it's what I should be doing. But that touches on one problem I always had at BCM...many of the people there could never understand that and that is exactly why 85% of my friends had nothing to do with that place. This trip has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with my career choice...and has everything to do with my life choices. I will NOT let anybody at BCM or elsewhere try to tell me what is important to me, nor try to judge my actions as they might relate to what is important to me, when they don't have a clue about what is really important in life. So, that's it for me and that place...I must continue my studies and career elsewhere and if that is the way it has to be, so be it. It's their loss the way I see it.

I still have an intense passion for science and I miss it dearly. It's still what I want to do with my life...I'm just trying to do something else at the moment...and I'm willing to pay ANY cost because I know it is worth it. I might be only 27, and I know that I really don't know shit...but the one thing I have learned is how to enjoy myself and get the absolute most of my time here on this planet and I consider myself lucky to have learned that and taken it to heart at such a young age.

=====================================================================

Anyway, that is what happened with BCM...and reading it now, almost six months later, I still feel the exact same way.

So now I plan to make the best out of the situation that I have and take another year to travel. The loose plan for the moment is to return to the US in August/September. I will most likely live in Boston where I'll work in a lab (if possible)Again, that is my idea at the moment but nothing is set in stone. I'll just keep going one day at a time for now, enjoying every step of the way, getting every single ounce out of my 27th year on this planet.

AC

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